Hands-on: Nike Shield wet weather running kit review

In the summer, running is easy. You come home from work, chuck on a pair of shoes and a vest, and head out the door. If you are lucky it is light, it's warm, it's a breeze. In the winter it is anything but.

That's where Nike's new winter kit promises to help you, but can it really be that easy? Pocket-lint was invited to MIRA, an ex-government testing facility near Warwick, UK, to try out the company's latest "elements" range to see whether it really does work as it says it does.

The MIRA wind tunnel

Our testing so far has involved two sessions: a 13-minute run on a treadmill in a wind tunnel, and a 26-minute run on the dark and rainy streets of Ascot - tough, we know.

First the wind tunnel. Designed to test cars, lorries, buses, and all manner of other things, it is also the perfect place to test running gear that is designed to keep you warm, but sweat free on your run.

The MIRA wind tunnel is capable of replicating a range of environments from -35C to +50C. It's also able to create hurricane-force winds, snow, rain, the cold plains of the North Pole and the humid jungle temperature of the rain forests.

When Ben Fogle and James Cracknell trained for their trek to the North Pole, in 2009, MIRA was used as a training ground (18 hours in -35C, if you're interested).

For our little running experiment, the facility has been set up to replicate a range between 10C and 5C with varying headwinds.

Ultimately in the wind tunnel we experienced running at 13kph on a treadmill for 13 minutes in to an increasing wind starting at 20kph climbing to 65kph while the temperature dropped from 10C to 4.7C.

The Nike Element kit

For the test we were wearing the Nike Free Run+3 Shield men's running shoe (£85), the Nike Vapor Windrunner men's running jacket (£150), the Nike Element Thermal running tights (£50), a Dri-Fit Wool Crew for men (£48), a pair of Nike men's Elite Storm-Fit Tech run gloves (£25), and to top it off a Nike Cold Weather Reflective running beanie (£18). We also tried on the Nike Flash men's running vest (£150).

The Nike Free Run+3 Shield

The Nike Free Run+3 Shield men's shoes are the key element here - well, as far as your feet are concerned. The Free Run+3 shoes are part of the company's new high-performance Shield range and sit alongside the Nike LunarGlide+4 Shield and the Air Pegasus+29 Shield shoes.

Your running style will dictate which one suits you best. The LunarGlide+4 offers more support, while the Free Run+3 sits within Nike's free running camp and comes with equal benefits and disadvantages.

Here the shoes have been adapted to work in wet weather conditions - ie, to repel water and be more visible at night.

The first is done by weaving the mesh upper, then stretching it, then weaving it again, then stretching it once more, before weaving it one final time. The result, says Nike, is a breathable material that doesn't let in any water, but still lets your feet breath.

We weren’t able to test the water element in the wind tunnel, but we were able to test it on a rainy run in Ascot, running through as many puddles as possible. The result? Dry feet at the end of it. Which is just what you want.

As for the reflective properties, Nike uses a special material that means that without light the shoes look black as normal, but shine a bright light on the shoe and it turns white becoming a "Tron" shoe, for a lack of a better description. It's really clever stuff and means that as long as cars have their headlights on you'll be seen.

Nike Vapor Windrunner men's running jacket

The other important piece of kit we tested is the Nike Vapor Windrunner men's running jacket. It has the same reflective strips to alert drivers that you are running in the dark, and is designed to keep you warm and snug while running in temperatures or weather conditions you perhaps wouldn't normally consider.

The crux of the technology, made up from a waterproof and wind-resistant membrane and Dri-Fit inner panels, is to let sweat escape without allowing water or wind in.

In the wind tunnel and even though the temperature was less than 5C and the wind at 65kph we were toasty warm. The jacket comes with a detachable hood, which can be tightened to provide extra protection, but we found in the wind tunnel blew off our face around 45 kph. Understandable, because we hadn't tightened it up enough.

In Ascot, the hood certainly kept the rain out, although with the temperature at around 10C, it got a little warm.

The jacket features thumb holes to give extra warmth to your hands without your needing to resort to gloves, and you get two large, zipped pockets with smaller internal pockets for keys or your phone (the phone pocket has a hole for your headphones too). 

Against the wind it works, against the rain it works, however if it is isn't raining we wouldn't recommend wearing it if it is above 10C.

Nike Flash

Although we didn't run with the Nike Flash men's running vest, we did have a chance to have a go. It is a reversible jacket with reflective material on one side for enhanced visibility in low-light conditions.

As you would expect, it comes with sweat-wicking fabric to stop you sweating, but the show-off feature here is that it has the same reflective technology as found on the Shield shoes. Catch the light right and you'll look like your glowing.

The rest

The Nike Element Thermal running tights are incredibly warm with seals on the ankles and calve zips to ensure a snug fit, while the Dri-Fit Wool Crew top is soft and seamless on the inside, but insulating on the outside. Nike says that the woollen fabric outer means that even when wet it will provide insulation. With the jacket doing its job, we've yet to try that bit out yet.

The Nike men's Elite Storm-Fit Tech run gloves are comfortable and - most important for us - have silver threaded into the thumb and index finger so you can use your smartphone. The thumb is also softer fabric for wiping your nose.

Conclusion

The Nike Elements gear is pricier in some cases than your average non-wet-weather gear, but in our two runs we found it worked perfectly, providing an excellent level of comfort and performance.

On the shoes front the Shield element is a no-brainer, especially if you run at night or through areas where you know there will be puddles. With our Nike LunarGlide+4 (without Shield) we have to do our best to avoid puddles. Here that isn't the case. So far we've run only 5km in them, but we didn't feel any overheating.

As for the Vapor Windrunner, this is a jacket that will wipe away any hope of finding an excuse to go running because the weather looks a "bit rough".

For those not looking for something so extreme there is the Nike Element Shield Max Jacket (£130). It loses the water-resistant protective cover on the back of the jacket and introduces a snood (which doesn't look that useful or comfortable),

Both will allow you to go out for a run in all weathers in the UK.